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By Deal W. Hudson

2/20/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can love his enemies

Forgiveness in the rough and tumble of life is a complicated matter, and though we may utter the correct platitudes about forgiving our neighbor, oftentimes, depending on the offense, we harbor a residue of anger toward, and distrust of, those we have supposedly forgiven.  Of all that I read about forgiveness, it was a sermon by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that made the most realistic case for the possibilities of forgiveness. What Nietzsche had idealized - forgetfulness - Dr. King looked directly in the face: "Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally from his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship."

Dr. King's words and example can help us imagine a different kind of culture, a culture of forgiveness, where a real or perceived evil act 'no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship.' If Dr. King could successfully inject this attitude into such a volatile moment in our history, then a culture of forgiveness is still possible.

Dr. King's words and example can help us imagine a different kind of culture, a culture of forgiveness, where a real or perceived evil act "no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship." If Dr. King could successfully inject this attitude into such a volatile moment in our history, then a culture of forgiveness is still possible.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/20/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: culture, forgiveness, healing, peace, Dr Martin Luther King Jr., Mercy, Love, culture of forgiveness, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - The philosopher Frederich Nietzsche wrote that true forgiveness required complete forgetfulness.  Being the son, grandson, and great grandson of Lutheran ministers, Nietzsche was well-versed both in Scripture and the fundamentals of Christian theology.  When I first read that passage, while in graduate school, I thought the atheist got forgiveness exactly right, but now I realize that only God can truly forgive and forget.

Forgiveness in the rough and tumble of life is a complicated matter, and though we may utter the correct platitudes about forgiving our neighbor, oftentimes, depending on the offense, we harbor a residue of anger toward, and distrust of, those we have supposedly forgiven. 

Of all that I read about forgiveness, it was a sermon by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that made the most realistic case for the possibilities of forgiveness. What Nietzsche had idealized - forgetfulness - Dr. King looked directly in the face:

"Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally from his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship."

Dr. King, of course, spoke from the kind of experience that makes his remarks all the more remarkable and authoritative. His achievement of rallying support for civil rights without channeling more than a century of pent up anger, and desire for revenge, looks more and more remarkable from the distance of nearly 50 years. His movement had every reason to evince a righteous anger, but on this Dr. King would not compromise. He knew there would be no change, no transformation, without maintaining relationships with those whose minds needed to change:

"Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can love his enemies."

When you live in or around Washington, DC, as I do, the Gospel proclamation of loving your enemies is particularly germane - our nation's capitol has become a barely habitable place where the spiritual sins - wrath, envy, and pride - are considered tools of the political trade. A slight is rarely forgotten, and anything more serious is never forgotten. ("House of Cards" may be overly dramatized, but the character types on display are easily found.)

Unfortunately, the ubiquity of 24-hour cable news and talk radio has injected this poison into the bloodstream of America. It's an eye-opener to get off a plane to meet friends on the other side of the country and hear them want to talk about whatever dust was being stirred up by Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. Ever since Obama was elected President, several friends of mine can talk about nothing but him and the "destruction" of our nation. Needless to say, we don't talk as often as we used to.
 
The lack of forgiveness, thus, infects not only the "perpetrator" and the "victim" but those around them who necessarily are caught in the jet stream of their vitriol. Wounds of this sort do not remain isolated, they grow larger, encompassing entire communities. Unless forgiveness is forthcoming, there is nothing to impede and turn back the spreading bitterness.

Dr. King's words and example can help us imagine a different kind of culture, a culture of forgiveness, where a real or perceived evil act "no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship." If Dr. King could successfully inject this attitude into such a volatile moment in our history, then a culture of forgiveness is still possible.
 
The quotations from Dr. King can be found in his sermon, "Loving your Enemies" in Strength to Love, Fortress Press, 1981.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

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Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

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